CES 2013: The technology you'll actually want

In a sea of retread and me-too products, here are the 5 technologies that stand out

Finding the tech gems among the rubble

The Consumer Electronics Show is where living-room tech vendors vie for attention. Most of the goods displayed this year is old news: super-high-res TVs (rechristened from "4K" to "UltraHD" this year), organic LED displays, Android tablets and smartphones that all look the same, and an endless parade of iPhone cases. Some products, such as the Pebble Smartwatch, made their debut as shipping products, months and months after being announced.

Did CES have anything truly new worth your attention? Yes: The following slides show five technologies debuting at CES -- that you'll actually want.

Dell Wyse Project Ophelia
Credit: Dell Computer
Dell Wyse Project Ophelia

My colleague J. Peter Bruzzese is a big fan of the Windows to Go technology in Windows 8 for Enterprise, which lets you create a bootable USB stick to run your Windows environment on another computer. But Project Ophelia from Dell's Wyse division does it one better.

Project Ophelia is a thumb drive that runs Android. When plugged into an MHL port on a TV or monitor, you get an Android computer. The MicroUSB-like MHL ports are not yet standard on TVs and monitors, and you'll need Bluetooth input devices. But Project Ophelia devices could one day bring portable computing almost everywhere, with fewer hardware limitations and none of the licensing constraints of Windows to Go.

Razer Edge Pro
Credit: Razer USA
Razer USA Razer Edge Pro

Mobile gaming has steadily been displacing the stand-alone game console, whether on the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, or your favorite Android device. You may have a console in your living room, but chances are your main gaming stage is now a mobile device.

Why not combine the two? That's what the Razer Edge Pro does. It's a Windows tablet that has gaming controls embedded, so you can play games from the Microsoft Xbox Store the way only a console can. And when you want to run business apps, check email, and surf the Web, you can. Too bad it's Windows 8 instead of Android, though. And too bad it costs $1,300.

E-Fun Apen Touch8
Credit: E-Fun
E-Fun Apen Touch8

One of Windows 8's key new capabilities is touchscreen support, but few people have touchscreen monitors. The Apen Touch8 saves you the expense of buying one. Instead, this pen senses your location on a regular monitor and lets you use precise gestures that normally require a touchscreen. Expected to ship in March for about $80, the Touch8 could make Windows 8 useful to more people.

Note that E-Fun offers the similar A5 pen for the iPad and iPhone for $129. If you're tempted by Samsung's Galaxy Note II's pen capabilities, you no longer have to switch to Android to get them.

Samsung Youm flexible screens
Credit: Samsung
Samsung Youm flexible screens

Samsung first unveiled this technology in South Korea last spring, but CES is where it made its big debut. The color LCD Youm screens can be shaped in all sorts of ways, even to bend and flex. The tecnology is in its infancy -- there are no plans to manufacture it yet -- but one day it could bring LCDs to all sorts of environments where a flat screen is too limited, from car dashboards and airplane cockpits to conference room videophones visible around the table.

3D-less TVs
3D-less TVs

For several years, the TV industry has been trying to foist 3D sets on us. Never mind few movies use 3D in any compelling way and that the 3D glasses required are expensive, annoying, limited in range, and -- most of all -- dorky.

CES has been one of the main places TV makers have promoted 3D TVs. But not this year. 3D TVs were very scarce at the show, an acknowledgment that people don't actually want this technology. TV makers are now focusing on super-high-resolution TVs that cost tens of thousands of dollars and display videos that will take days to download or high-capacity hard disks to deliver -- more foolishness, but at least new foolishness!